After watching many TED talks with topics ranging from poetry to psychology (it’s so easy to just get lost in that website), I settled on one entitled “(Re)touching lives through photos”. The speaker, Becci Manson, is a photo retoucher who spent about 7 months after Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster collecting, hand-cleaning, and retouching lost photos pulled from the rubble and ash. She tapped into her worldwide network of photo retouchers to begin the volunteer project that would ultimately restore hundreds and hand-clean well over 100,000 photos.
In minutes 5:55- 7:20 Mason tells a story of a family whose photo was restored…take a gander:
This was an amazing effort. I often hear of disasters or turn on the news coverage and am blown away by the sense of helplessness I feel. What could I do? Manson asked this same question, and instead of switching the channel to Project Runway (like I do), she employed her unique talents and abilities to help. What a concept! She wasn’t simply giving back photos. She was restoring memories–memories that had been lost under the wreckage of misery and debris. Her actions say, ‘you will not be forgotten and your life will not be erased.’ Interestingly, Manson’s job is often criticized for adding to the shallowness and superficiality of the media, for creating lies (i.e. making models skinnier, making skin flawless). Here, I see a woman not of lies, but of compassion and dedication. Our facebook and instagram- frenzied world, one of vanity, networking, and contentedness, demands the images of our days together. We share our stories in pictures. We collage, we filter, we tag. And what if that world ended tomorrow? What would we hold on to? How would we share our lives? How would we relate? How would we remember? A picture is only worth a thousand words if it exists. Becci Manson is making sure that the memories, the birthday cakes and awkward family dinners, don’t go missing. She is truly a light in all the darkness.
Cool afterthought: As I was looking for a picture for the feature image, I came across a 2012 article from the Atlantic that documented Japan’s progress a year later. In the first image, a woman is holding a picture of herself a year ago during the disaster (which is my feature image).
Don’t know what really went down in Japan in March 2011 (like the fact that 15,883 people died)? Here are some quick facts.